It’s the Oscars this weekend and who better to talk about what we can learn from the Academy Award nominees than our very own Cannes Grand Prix Winner and multi-award winning filmmaker Tracey O’Halloran – who always seems to be at film screenings and Q&As with some of the biggest names in movie making.
Q) You’ve been to a few talks with some of this year’s Academy Award nominees, tells us why you love going to these events?
I love learning from those at the top of their game. Every filmmaker has their own style of working. Hearing them talk about their craft makes you appreciate that even big Hollywood names face similar challenges to all of us filmmakers, whether it’s directing their first film, working with child actors, dealing with constant script changes, or simply making the film work when the weather isn’t on their side, there is always something you can learn.
Q) So which of the Oscar contenders have you been learning from?
First time director Bradley Cooper, screenwriting legend & director Paul Schrader and multi-academy award winning Director Alfonso Cuarón.
Q) Wow, an impressive bunch, so what have you learnt from each of them?
The First Time Director – Bradley Cooper. Film: A Star is Born.
When I got an invitation to go to a screening of A Star is Born followed by a Q&A with Bradley Cooper. My first reaction was a) it’s Bradley Cooper and b) it’s Bradley Cooper!
In all seriousness I was really keen to find out about his transition from actor to first time film director. I was surprised to learn that when he first moved to L.A and was an actor on the TV show ‘Alias’, he spent all of his spare time in the editing room; learning about shots, camera angles and lighting. However, despite going onto become one of the biggest actors in Hollywood, he didn’t feel ready to direct his first movie until he turned 40.
Top tip: Keep learning, no matter what your job role or the side of the camera you are on, and when you feel ready make the leap!
The Screenwriter/Director – Paul Schrader. Film: First Reformed.
This is the man who wrote Taxi Driver! So I couldn’t turn down a Saturday afternoon watching his latest film ‘First Reformed’. Incidentally, after watching this film I actually used it as a visual reference for a short film I’ve just directed, so thank you Paul for the inspiration!
Top tip: This is a man who is experienced in his craft so I’d say the key thing that he said is that “filmmaking is about setting your own rules and understanding when and how to break them”. I think this is an important point. Once you’ve learnt the basics, think about how you can push boundaries or do something differently. I try to do this whenever there is an opportunity to. It does mean worrying about whether your idea will work but these are the films that have won me awards!
The Multi Academy Award Winning Director – Alfonso Cuarón. Film: Roma.
Alfonso Cuarón is a director who doesn’t follow the rules. There are so many complex shots and camera movements in Roma; the main character is played by a non-actor and the epic sea sequence near the end of the film is breathtaking. I wanted to know how he directed all of the above. Amazingly for the sea scene he managed to get only one good complete shot. Due to bad weather, health & safety and the dreaded daylight issues they couldn’t get another. Something all filmmakers can relate to!
Top Tip: If you ever need to get actors to look like they might be drowning in the sea, tell them to have a competition to see who can stay under the longest (obviously follow all H&S advice, have divers on hand and then paint them out in post production!). Handy tip as I’m a filmmaker who loves open water swimming, so who knows when I’ll get to combine my love of both!
Q) So which of the above films do you hope will be among the winners this weekend?
I’d love to see Roma pick up best director and film. However, First Reformed is an intense and rewarding watch which hasn’t had the recognition it deserves. First time actress Yalitza Aparicio’s performance is astonishing in Roma but wow can Lady Gaga sing!
Thank you Tracey, we look forward to Sunday. Wishing the best of luck to all those nominated
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